ICZN questions- subspecific rank, status change etc.

Derek Sikes dss95002 at UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU
Mon Jul 2 11:48:42 CDT 2001

Dear ICZN gurus,

I'm completing a full bibliographic synonymy of the silphid subfamily
Nicrophorinae (burying beetles) and have some questions about how to treat
changes to subspecific epithets.  I've found there are different opinions on
these questions (and even the ICZN seems contradictory -see 3 below) so I
thought I'd open them up to a wider audience:

The ICZN 4th ed. states that all epithets made available prior to 1960 as
'varieties' are of subspecific rank.  Many names in my group were  published
as such.

1. If a name was published <1960 as 'var.' and subsequent authors demote it
to 'aberration'- intending to change the status of the name to a rank below
variety -- what exactly has happened? the rank 'ab' is considered
infrasubspecific and thus neither available nor within the jurisdiction of
the ICZN.  Unless I am wrong, the action of making a var. epithet into an
'ab.' epithet cannot remove the availability of the name, i.e. cannot make
the name into a true aberrational name [one first published as an
aberration].  Thus if it is impossible to change an available name to an
aberration- what have these author's actually done?  Have they stripped the
epithet of its subspecific rank and made it a synonym at the rank of
specific epithet  i.e. NEW STATUS (certainly not their intention- raising
the rank of the name, they wanted to lower it )? or, because we cannot make
an available name into an infrasubspecific name, have they simply failed to
do anything, i.e. no status change.

2. What is the difference between a subspecies that is valid and a
subspecies that is a synonym of the specific epithet?  This sounds like an
easy situation but there are some complexities- some authors consider the
'var' epithets to be valid ranks (i.e. good subspecies) but other authors
don't recognize these ranks in their publications and thus strip the 'var'
designator- have they, upon doing so :

a. made a NEW SYNONYM
b. performed a NEW STATUS change
c. or both
d. or neither (the name was already a synonym of the specific name since it
was of subspecific rank)

3. Am I correct that a name first published as infrasubspecific  and later
used as a species group name (e.g. subspecies) becomes available at that
point  but retains the author and year of the original publication (not the
year and authorship of the subsequent elevation in rank)?  ICZN article
50.3.1  indicates the correct author is the one who first makes the name
available, but article (3rd example) seems to contradict this.

4. A species first published in a subgenus that is later elevated to full
genus- e.g. original combination: Silpha (Necrophorus) albus  which later
becomes Necrophorus albus- does the author's name get put in parentheses?
Article 51.3.2 seems to indicate that the author's name does not get put in


Derek Sikes
Dept. of Ecology and Evol. Biology U-43
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT 06269  USA

FAX: 860-486-6364

dss95002 at uconnvm.uconn.edu

"Remember that Truth alone is the matter you are in Search after; and if you
have been mistaken, let no Vanity reduce you to persist in your mistake."
Henry Baker, London, 1785

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